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THE FCT HIGH COURT IS NOT A COURT FOR ALL PURPOSE

Dictum

Section 299 of the 1999 Constitution, be it noted, regards the FCT, Abuja “as if it were one of the States of the Federation”. Accordingly, for all intents and purposes, FCT High Court, under the Constitution, is no more than a State High Court. The Constitution has never intended it to be a High Court at large with Jurisdiction over matters outside its territory.

– E. Eko JSC. Mailantarki v. Tongo (2017) – SC.792/2015

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EXCLUSIVE JURISDICTION IS ON FHC WHERE ANY OF ITS AGENCIES IS A PARTY

ADEGBITE & ANOR. v AMOSU (2016) LPELR 40655 (SC); wherein it was held that: “The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) has conferred exclusive jurisdiction on the Federal High Court in a matter in which the Federal Government or any of its agencies is involved. (Section 251(1) (p), (q), (r) and (s).” Per Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, J.S.C (p. 16).

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TRIAL COURT JURISDICTION DETERMINES COURT OF APPEAL’S JURISDICTION

In APGA V. ANYANWU (2014) 7 NWLR (PT 1407) 541 at 567-568, this Court held as follows:- “The jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal to entertain an appeal is dependent upon the jurisdiction of the trial Court to hear and determine the suit before it in the first instance. Where the trial Court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the case, its proceedings are a nullity and the Court of Appeal would not have the jurisdiction to entertain an appeal arising therefrom. An appeal from proceedings initiated conducted without jurisdiction will be liable to be struck out for want of jurisdiction.”

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PARTIES TO A CASE DETERMINE THE JURISDICTION OF A COURT

However, what the learned senior Counsel failed to realize is the fact that the presence of the 2nd Appellant, the National Judicial Council and the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation as parties in the case, had pulled in a feature in the case which brought it out of the jurisdiction of the High Court taking into consideration the decision of this Court in Madukolu v. Nkemdelim (supra) earlier quoted in this judgment.

– Mahmud, JSC. Elelu-Habeeb v. A.G Federation (2012)

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JUDGE SHOULD NOT MAKE PRONOUNCEMENTS ON THE CASE AFTER STRIKING OUT FOR WANT OF JURISDICTION

It is my judgment that the Judge was wrong in dismissing the suit rather than striking it out when he held that he had no jurisdiction. The court was not just wrong, I dare say that the court abdicated a constitutional obligation or duty. In any case, the law is that even where a court finds that it had no jurisdiction he has no business making any other order or proceeding further other than to do his only duty, which is to strike out the matter or case: Obi v. I.N.E.C. (2007) All FWLR (Pt. 378) 1116, (2007) 11 NWLR (Pt. 1046) 565. Also the case of John Egbele v. The Post Master General (unreported decision of this court in CA/L/585/05 delivered on 10 November 2010) wherein this court, per Mukhtar JCA in his lead judgment said at page 10 thus: “The court below having rightly held that it lacked jurisdiction in the matter, ought to have simply struck out the matter as it lacked the competence to decide any other issue. The further pronouncement by the court that the suit was statute-barred was null and void and same is hereby struck out” In Okotie-Eboh v. Manager (2005) 123 LRCN 256, (2005) All FWLR (Pt. 241) 277, the Supreme Court also made it clear, per Edozie JSC at page 288, paragraph K of the report that the superfluous pronouncement made after a finding that the court had no jurisdiction was academic as courts of law are not academic institutions. I must say that it is for this same reason that I had in the decision of this court in Egbele v. The Post Master General said in my contribution as follows: “it is in the same reasoning that I hold that challenge raised in ground No. 2 of the appeal – bordering as it were on the limitation of action, has no merit as the High Court of a State including that of Lagos State has no jurisdiction to proceed to pronounce on the incompetence of the suit for being statute-barred after it had found … That it lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate the matter.”

— Danjuma, JCA. Tony Anthony Nig. Ltd & Ors. v. NDIC (CA/L/630/2009 • 25 January 2011)

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ISSUE ON JURISDICTION MUST BE RESOLVED BEFORE ANY OTHER THING

Once the question of jurisdiction is raised, it must be resolved before any further step is taken in the proceedings as the jurisdiction of the Court to entertain the suit is fundamental to the competence of the Court, and has been described as the lifeblood of adjudication. See Statoil (Nig) Ltd v Inducon (Nig) Ltd (2021) 7 NWLR Part 1774 Page 1 at 47-48 Para H-F per M.D. Muhammad JSC; Central Bank of Nigeria v Rahamaniyya G.R. Ltd (2020) 8 NWLR Part 1726 Page 314 at 337 Para A-B per Okoro JSC.

— O. Adefope-Okojie, JCA. Kanu v FRN (2022) – CA/ABJ/CR/625/2022

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EXCEPTION TO DETERMINING JURISDICTION BY WRIT & STATEMENT OF CLAIM

The point has to be cleared without delay that the law though well settled is that the writ of summons and statement of claim are the materials on which the issue of competence and jurisdiction of Court is raised, however it is not a principle cast in stone or regarded as immutable as circumstances could arise where, when an objection is made by means of a motion on notice, facts deposed to in affidavit in support as well as the counter affidavits and attached exhibits are also utilised to resolve the question, in the same vein could come up the use of evidence already adduced in the resolution of the question of jurisdiction as was the case in the instant matter which came up at the close of evidence and in the final addresses of counsel. Therefore the Court below erred in holding that the trial High Court was correct to determine the objection by reference solely on the writ of summons and statement of claim even though the oral and documentary evidence in proof of the relevant paragraphs of the statement of claim were staring it in the face of the Court. Indeed the Court below ought not to have closed its eyes to the record and the evidence already before it. See Okoroma v Uba (1999) 1 NWLR (Pt.587) 359; Onuorah v KRPC Ltd (2005) 6 NWLR (Pt.921) 393; NDIC v CBN (2002) 7 NWLR (Pt.766) 272; I.K. Martins (Nig.) Ltd v UPL (1992) 1 NWLR (Pt.217) 322; Agbareh v Mimra (2008) 2 NWLR (Pt.1071) 378; Osafile v Odi NO.1 (1990) 3 NWLR (Pt.137) 130; Nigergate Ltd v Niger State Government (2008) 13 NWLR (Pt. 1103) 111 (CA).

— Tanko Muhammad, JSC. Berger v Toki Rainbow (2019) – SC.332/2009

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